Smoky and swaggerin’, Sam Morrow’s Gettin’ By On Gettin’ Down sets the cruise control to funky and drives with deep-fried abandon. It’s everyman rock n’ roll built to hook you with golden analog warmth, and like it’s predecessor, 2018’s Concrete and Mud, it relies on a greasy, glammy tone that reaches back toward the hills and canyons of Los Angeles in the 1970s and ’80s. Morrow looks for and finds that groove, latches onto the vibe, and shakes it down to the molecular level.
Gettin’ By On Gettin’ Down connects with the satisfying rattle of a chunky 8-track slamming home while pulsing with the bone-deep 100-watt strike of a vintage tube amp. For Sam Morrow, it’s an exploration of and tribute to the heroic glory of L.A.’s legendary pedigree and a salute to the future of deliberate rock n’ roll.
AI- Normally– and I’ll qualify this by sayin’ that the standard for what normal is has really shifted– but normally, I want to know how everybody’s holdin’ up under the weight of the pandemic. But you’ve got a whole other round of problems out there on the West coast! Are the fires an issue for you?
SM- No, not really, man. It gets a little smoky where I am, but really that’s about it. The air quality is kind of shit, but luckily, I’m in the city. Like if the fire’s get into the city, you’re really fucked. That’s when you know you’re fucked. So luckily it hasn’t done that. But we had another little earthquake here a couple of nights ago. Earthquakes are so weird, man. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced one?
I have not.
I’m from Texas, so I haven’t. I had no idea what one felt like, but I can’t even describe it, man! It’s just the weirdest thing! It’s almost impossible to describe to someone who’s never experienced one. It’s just a weird year.
And yet here you are about to release a new album into this weird year! Gettin’ By On Gettin’ Down… A lot of it if not all of it, I believe, was written right after you had been out puttin’ Concrete and Mud  out around the world.
Yeah. Upon touring that record, writin’ a little bit on the road… Well, not really writin’ on the road, but comin’ up with ideas on the road. I can’t really write on the road. I can’t really sit down and connect the dots until I get home.
I know that you and Eric Corne are back again at the helm of the record, and you wrote “Rosarita” with your pal, Jaime Wyatt, who was also on Concrete and Mud. Is she actually on the album backing you up in any capacity? And who else is on there?
No, she’s not actually on the album. We just wrote a “Rosarita” together. We were lucky to even get in a room together just [because of] how busy both of us were at the time. And then she ended up movin’ to Nashville. That’s a little far from me, so we couldn’t get her in the studio or anything like that. But yeah, it’s a pretty similar band to the last record, minus a different bass player. We got this guy Taras [Prodaniuk], he played in [Lucinda William’s] band for a long time, Doug Pettibone, which Doug Pettibone played with Lucinda too. He played on a couple songs, but mostly it was all the same band– Matt Tecu playin’ drums and Eli Wulfmeier playin’ guitar, Sasha Smith playin’ keys, Eamon Ryland also played some guitar on it too.
Who else you’ve been writin’ with?
I write with Eric Corne quite a bit. I’m tryin out his whole Zoom thing, which is weird. I mean, it’s what we got, so it is what it is! But I’ve been writin’ a little bit with Alex Williams. You know, Alex?
Oh, you should check him out, man! He’s out of Indianapolis. He’s one of the True Grit guys like Cody Jinks and Whitey [Morgan]. He’s great! Other than that, man, I’ve just been playin’ guitar. I honestly haven’t been doing like a whole lot of writin’ since the pandemic started. I’ve just been coping. You know what I mean? (Laughs)
I get that a lot from folks– that it goes one way or the other. I’ll speak to somebody and they’ll tell me, “Oh my goodness, all I’m doing is writin’! I’m just writin’, writin’, writin’, writin’! I’ve got the time to do it!” And then other people are like, “Man, I can’t even think about that right now! I can’t do that at all!”
Yeahhhh… That’s kinda where I am a little bit. I’ve done a little bit, but it’s like you have so much time that you don’t know what to do with it.
Lots of great albums are being released right now– and have been for the last six months. It’s been a really amazing thing to watch and listen to. But the dynamic of releasing an album has drastically changed. I imagine you had a big summer planned, to be out and play these songs in front of folks and do what you might call the standard industry album release. How have you had to pivot for this album?
Obviously, there’s no touring. That’s like the main thing. That’s how a musician like me makes money or sells records these days. Obviously, it’s touring. ‘Cause you don’t really sell records anymore– at least enough to make money. I’m kinda preachin’ to the choir I assume?
But I recorded this record– I guess it was about a year ago– and we were already kinda sittin’ on it. We had some major label stuff that was in the air and then fell through, but I think it was for the best. So then we were sittin’ on it ’cause of that. And then I just didn’t want to sit on it anymore! It was like, “Let’s just put it out!” I think people are definitely hungry for music right now. It’s a shame that we can’t go out there and play the songs with people, but I think we [should] just put it out and really focus on social media and the digital and put out content. We got a video coming out pretty soon. We did a live show video with Live Nation. We’re adapting, man– and I’ve planned to hopefully record another one! The plan is to record another record like first of the year and have it come out in the summer. Hopefully, by then, we’re touring again.
This record, you had a lot of inspiration coming from Lowell George and Little Feat and Bowie, kinda like that funky “Fame” era stuff. Is that where your mind is at? Talkin’ about doin’ more?
Yeah, I think so, man. I think that’s where I’ve felt the most comfortable. Or at least right now I feel the most comfortable and that’s where I had the most fun. Again, as a musician, if I’m not changing, if I’m just doing the same thing, I get bored, man. I’m too like ADHD or ADD whatever the hell it is. I have to change it up. I have a lot of respect for those guys that can write the same kind of music and play it every night and they have fun. That’s just not me, man. The last record was a little more country, I guess, and this one is like not at all. It’s probably a character flaw, really, but I don’t like being labeled as something or pigeonholed.
With Concrete and Mud, you did seem to be a put in that realm of country. On this one, there’s still a great deal of that Southern rock to it. You say you don’t like the labels, but what do you consider what you’re doing? ‘Cause it’s funky, it’s country, it’s rock n’ roll…
I like Southern rock. Rock n’ roll, I think, is what this record is. I think people are scared to say rock n’ roll, you know? I don’t know why people don’t use rock n’ roll. Same reason why people don’t just call country country. Why don’t you just call rock n’ roll rock n’ roll!
Well, the argument with country is ’cause a lot of what gets pushed as country…
A lot of it’s not. That’s my whole thing. I got no problems with people listenin’ to the pop country stuff. I mean, I don’t like it, but my whole thing is just call it what it is. It’s pop music. Call country what it is. No need to call it Americana. Just call it what it is, and I got no qualms with it.
Something that really stood out on Concrete and Mud and even more so on Gettin’ By On Gettin’ Down is all the tone-heavy guitar riffs. Filthy is the word I use for those tones! Who does all the scientific research and nailin’ down those tones? And who comes up with the riffs?
We do, we spend a lot of time in the studio tone hunting…
I like that. Tone hunting.
Yeah! I’ve gotten a lot better at guitar in the past few years, but for a long time, I just used guitars like a way to write songs. And then maybe like three or four years ago, I made a conscious effort to really practice and become a better electric guitar player. I’m still not that great, but I got an ear. I’ll sit with Eamon, my guitar player, for an hour in the studio just finding the tone for a solo. I’m lucky that they like it too! All these guys like to deep dive into that. As far as the riffs go, like the main riffs, me and Eric or me or Eric come up with the riffs. Or the guys, they’ll play somethin’ in the studio and we’re like, “Damn, that’s really cool! Let’s keep that!” And then it lives on forever.
Tell me about the artwork for the album. ‘Cause that is also very funky. You’ve got not only the album cover, which I’ve seen, but you’ve got, I guess, what you might consider the one-off pieces that have been goin’ with the singles.
I think it goes a little bit with what I was sayin’ about everything being social media, digital. I thought it was especially important for this album to have cool art. I’m into, at least right now, the sorta cartoony, psychedelic, weird art– kinda in the vein of Little Feat also. A lot of their album art is very weird. I’m lookin’ at one on my wall right now [Down On The Farm]. It’s like a lady sittin’ by the pool with a duck beak, and there’s a tiger in the back… It’s random, you know? I just think it’s fun and funny and, and that’s what I like. I had a lot of fun workin’ with the artist…
What’s his name?
His name’s Matt Adams. He lives out in the desert here and he’s got a band called Blank Tapes. He does art for like a Jam in the Van and stuff like that. I think it was the last single that we’re putting out, “I Think I’ll Just Die Here”, and I was tryin’ to think of some artwork and I was like, “Man, could you make like a guy blissfully resting on a pile of shit look cool?” (Laughs) And he said, “Yeah!” And he did it! That’s a couple arts out. It turned out pretty funny, man!
Is that your artistic representation of 2020?
(Laughs) Yeah, exactly, man! Exactly!
I’m glad you brought that song up, “I Think I’ll Just Die Here”, cause if that song doesn’t scream 2020, I don’t know what does. It’s a heck of a way to end the record. I hope I’m not spoiling it for anybody, but that’s the ultimate track on the record and it defies the rest of the album. I believe it’s just you and a guitar, right?
Yeah. I think we ended up just me and a guitar and then I did some harmonies on it. But I think maybe all my records have ended with an acoustic song like that. That was one of those songs that just came out of me. I didn’t really even have to try much. It was just there. And yeah, it’s sort of obvious with all the stuff that’s going on– just livin’ in America right now. It’s a weird place to live, you know? Weird time to live. I don’t want to go into too much of what that song means. I think anybody can read between the lines, but it’s just as important to me now as it was a year and a half ago when I wrote it. Nothin’s changed. Only gotten worse actually.
Will this inform what you’re gonna do next? What we’re livin’ through right now? On the West coast, you’ve got fires and earthquakes. We’ve got COVID-19, we’ve got Black Lives Matter demonstrations and protests and political upheaval. Is that going to creep into what you do next?
You know, maybe? I don’t know? I’ve never really been one to write a bunch of protest songs. I’m no Jason Isbell. Although I may agree with a lot of what that dude says. I’m just not one that’s super outspoken with all that stuff. I like to be less straightforward. I like to be more abstract with how I think and how I write. And also, when I write a song, I don’t sit down like, “I’m gonna write a song about this.” It’s normally just like somethin’ hits me– and that could be in the shower or like drivin’ a car or something like that. I have to get out my voice memo and sing into it or jot down a line and then I’ll write it from there. But yeah, I don’t know, man. I guess that’s basically my answer. I know that’s a shit answer, but I don’t know.
It’s a hard thing, because I think there are a great deal of artists that feel passionate about the things that are going on in the world. But as you say, they’ve never been what you call protest writers or political writers. So no, I don’t think it’s a shit answer.
I think these are exceptional times for sure. And I think more people who weren’t necessarily political or wrote protest songs are doing it now ’cause it’s such an exceptional time. But we’ll see. Like I said, I haven’t been writin’ that much. Even though this record was written like a year and a half ago, I think that it’s apt for this time because it’s just about havin’ fun, man. The beats, the grooves are fun. Maybe it’s like a light for me– what it used to be like when I could play with a band every night!
A couple of years ago with Concrete and Mud, you said that album was about the things that unite us being stronger than the forces that divide us. Is that still your philosophy going forward with Gettin’ By On Getting Down? That light you call it?
I think so, man. There’s so much division right now. I think we really need to start lookin’ at each other and findin’ similarities rather than tryin’ to find differences all the time. I’ve talked about how important social media is for putting this record out, but social media is toxic, man. It’s part of the demise of us right now. People hidin’ behind their keyboard and sayin’ things they wouldn’t say to somebody’s face. And then all the false information that’s goin’ around. I’m from Texas, but I live in California, so it’s sort of polar opposite as far as like politically. I’m in the middle, but my parents and a lot of my family are big Trump supporters and I have people out here telling me, “If you like Trump, you’re a bad person!”
That’s not true! You know? My parents are good people, my parents’ friends are good people. I think we just gotta look and find similarities with each other and have a conversation with somebody instead of attacking them. It’d be okay to disagree. I mean, I disagree all the time and it doesn’t mean I don’t like you! Given it’s a more nuanced situation than maybe I just put out for you, but that’s my two cents for today. That’s my one cup of coffee right there!
Well, I’ll switch gears on you. Tell me what the record of the week is.
Oh man, I’m still listenin’ to that new Texas Gentlemen record! Floor It!!! I’ve been listenin’ to that since it came out. I think it’s so cool, it’s like a mixture of like a psychedelic Band, little bit of Grateful Dead in there… One of the guys that sings kinda has a Willie Nelson thing going on…
Maybe you should look at joinin’ forces with the Gentleman for your next project.
Man! Yeah, I’ve talked to Beau [Bedford] before. I would love to do that! I’m friends with one of their drummers, Aaron [Haynes]. I think that there’s a lot of good music coming out of Dallas. Modern Electric is that studio there. I think Paul Cauthen’s great. I think Vince Emerson is great– or I guess Vincent. I don’t think he likes when people call him Vince. Vincent Neil Emerson.
I was talkin’ to Charley Crockett about him. Charley Crockett said he’s one of the finest songwriters to come out of Texas this generation.
He’s really great, man. I don’t think we’ve ever met in person, but we’re friends on social media and he’s just like a funny dude. I think Joshua Ray Walker is great…
That’s my favorite guy right now!
Yeah, he’s awesome, man– and that’s comin’ from someone that’s from Houston! I’m trained to hate Dallas!
Bein’ out there on the West coast, makin’ music and now looking back East towards the Lone Star State, do you feel a draw to that scene?
Oh yeah! I’ll end up back in Texas someday. I definitely miss Texas. I definitely do feel a draw to that scene. I don’t think I’ll end up in Dallas (laughs). I like the music, but I don’t think I’d live there (laughs). They’d probably say the same thing about Houston! And you can forget about me becomin’ a Cowboys fan too (laughs)! But definitely, man. There’s a mystique to Texas music that’s gotten lost out here in L.A.
Part of what I wanted to do with this record is also highlight L.A. music, like L.A. music back in the ’70s. That’s with Laurel Canyon and Little Feat– and like Los Lobos! I think “Round n’ Round” is like my tribute to East L.A. and Los Lobos– that music that you maybe don’t think L.A. when you hear it, but nonetheless that’s where it was made. I think that mystique in L.A. is kinda gone. There’s a lot of good musicians out here but there’s something about Texas… There’s somethin’ cool going on there right now. Charley Crockett, too, is another guy. I say right now, but it’s always been that way, man. The mystique’s there and I don’t think it’s left.